Hart’s ability to compete in the Foothill League and Coastal Conference may have been questioned when the Southern Section moved the Indians out of the Golden League and Northwestern Conference in 1982.
But Hart has lost only two league games in four years--the Indians were undefeated in league the last two years--and played in the last three Coastal Conference championship games.
This season, Hart is back in the Northwestern Conference--the most radically altered division in the Southern Section.
The Foothill, Pioneer and Rio Hondo leagues have been added to a conference that had been dominated for three consecutive years by Golden League champion Canyon. The Golden, Ocean and Los Padres leagues have been moved into other conferences.
“I’ve got to think of the move as a lateral thing, I don’t think one conference is better than the other,” said Hart Coach Rick Scott, whose team is ranked first in the conference in the Southern Section preseason poll. “From my perspective, I knew the Coastal Conference. At playoff time, when we would go down to the Southern Section office for the draw and find out who we would be playing, I knew what to prepare for.
“There are teams in this new conference that I’ve never seen play. It will hurt us a little bit at playoff time, but we’ll just have to do a better job scouting and preparing.”
Unfortunately for other Foothill League members, optimistic projections by league coaches for the upcoming season are tempered by a look at the Hart personnel.
“Hart has so many experienced players back and they have superior talent,” Schurr Coach Ken Davis said. “They’ve got every team in our league physically overmatched.”
Said Burbank Coach Dave Carson: “I think you definitely have to give the edge to Hart,” he said. “We can line up with them, but their physical ability just allows them to control the line of scrimmage.”
Hart is strong in the backfield as well. Quarterback Jim Bonds passed for 2,425 yards last season during a junior year that didn’t really take off until the Indians won for the first time in their fifth game of the season.
“Last year there was some question as to whether the seniors were going to accept a junior at quarterback,” Scott said. “The turning point for us last season was when the players recognized Bonds as a leader.”
The Indians strengthened themselves for this season with the addition of fullback Andy Iacenda, a second team all-league fullback last season at Burroughs of Burbank who transferred to Hart for his senior year.
“We sit here waiting for some great transfers ourselves, but no one has come through the door yet,” said Davis, whose teams are characteristically small and quick. “I don’t know why Iacenda couldn’t have moved this way. At Hart, he’s an average-size player. Here, he’d be Godzilla.”
Burroughs, which was winless in league last season, also is recognized by league coaches as a potential threat to break into the playoffs.
“They’re like a sleeping giant,” Carson said. “They have some talented kids coming back and an excellent coach taking over the program.”
Bob Dunivant, who was a successful head coach at Burroughs from 1961 to 1979, is back along with nine assistant coaches who have either played or coached with him.
Burroughs, Burbank and Schurr will all battle for playoff positions and Alhambra or San Gabriel may slip in as well, but Hart is the favorite to repeat as champion.